As a design brand; George and Willy are fine ambassadors of everyday, simplistic and functional products. But as people, they are an inspiring, modern representation of what the NZ “can-do” attitude looks like in 2000’s. They design things that they need and that their friends need. Things that are detailed only to the degree that allows them to do the best job. There is no fussiness, over design or frivolity – just items that help make our everyday life better.
I have followed Will McCallum and George Wilkins from the very get go. Interviewing them, collecting their products and, to be totally honest, presenting them as shining example of brands “doing it right” to my small business workshops. There is an honest integrity to what they design but also to how they share it. They literally live and breath the lifestyle that their products are made for and it shows.
Big brands pay big bucks in an effort to communicate the same to a much lesser effect….that stuff is just not for sale.
Above you’ll spot their latest offering – the Hanging Drying Rack. The genius of putting their own spin on this traditional product and releasing it to “us” is awesome. A massively functional item, I have only ever seen them in back country huts or the homes of ski friends who have peer pressured someone else to make one!
Remember – heat rises!
The rack falls into long line of products and furniture that are recognisable but fully rejuvenated by the GW team. Their now iconic release of the Studio Roller (followed by the Daily Roller) went so insane on Pinterest that link followers from the USA were ending up at MY site (following my post) and requesting I send over 8!! The viral success of the rollers pushed them to offer international shipping from the get go.
I’m proud that we get to call these guys our own and I’m excited for their future.
I took a little time to check in and spin a few curly questions their way to see what else we might learn about them as designers, business owners and Kiwi’s.
Read on below.
From left: George Wilkins and Will McCallum
In an alternate universe where you met, made a few fun things together while at Uni then graduated with no inkling to continue this particular “making” business, where and what do you guys think you would be doing?
Will: If I didn’t do G&W, I imagine I would still be making something – possibly small batch chilli sauce? Or something like that. I get my satisfaction from producing physical things which people buy and get stoked on. I also would love to do a building apprenticeship and have always been keen on architecture as well.
I don’t think I could be working on something you can’t touch.
George: When I was 10 or so I had to write this thing at school saying what I would want to do. I wrote that I would live on a high country farm in the South Island with an airstrip a helicopter, an aeroplane, a jet boat and a big engineering workshop. When I was younger my grandfather had jet boats and I was obsessed with them, I made remote control jet boats and read everything I could about the Hamilton Jet, which was invented on a high country farm in the South Island, so I think that is where the idea came from.
In an alternate universe I would be doing that.
Paint a picture of what a visitor might be greeted with on entering
the G+W HQ?
Will: The George & Willy headquarters is a big blue shed in a dead end. We have no sign but tell people to look out for the basketball hoop outside. George, Will, Alice, Sam, Sam Jarred & Louie will be here from 7:30 til 4:30 week days, pumping out product and working on new projects. Everything in the workshop has a place – it’s not fun when you have to look for things.
The office is upstairs – insulated with carpet to try and reduce the blare of the saws (didn’t work at all). We realised we will spend more time here than anywhere else so we decided to make it as fun as possible – it’s a bit like a making playground for us – studio upstairs and steel and wood workshop downstairs.
George: Yesterday a guy called Paddy turned up at the workshop. I met him at an engagement party a few weeks ago and told him roughly where the workshop was and that he should turn up one day. He turned up in the middle of the day and was given a tour of the workshop, met everyone and then left with a pair of merino socks for himself. Everyone who turns up gets a pair of socks. They would think it was a bit of a joke to be honest, most people do.
That is what we are going for though…. flag having a serious work environment!
Everyone knows what they are up to and gets it done. Its pretty funny because there is a scaffolding company down the road from us and they all walk past at smoko to go to the bakery and look in seriously confused as to what goes on in our place.
To your followers it’s refreshingly obvious that you and the team live and breath the lifestyle that your products support (anyone in doubt need to check out their Instagram AND Journal)
Clean, strong, no frills design that you can hang your wetsuits on after a dive/surf, that allow you to easily light a fire at that backcountry hut, that you can set up to eat at/study at/ sleep on/display with/ write on/ retrieve the toast with/ WEAR!
Can you each name 3 favourite NZ locations and the activities that you love to do there.
- Great Barrier Island is a cool place – we sailed over there in January for a week on my mates yacht. Absolutely loved it.
- We have heard great things about Big Bay so would be cool to get there at some stage soon – cool hike in and good waves – would be pretty chilly though!
- Wanaka is awesome – both in summer and in winter, always had the best times there.
- The DOC Great Walks . My Mum always got us kids out tramping every summer and I think that the NZ great walks are great. Just the fact that they can be walked by anyone. Your uncle, cousin, sister etc.
- The Cook Straight Ferry – how beautiful are the Sounds!
I love the ferry, you are always heading somewhere when you are on the Ferry which is generally exciting.
- As cliche as it is – walking up Mount Maunganui will never get old. It’s so close for us to do it on a daily basis and every time it reminds me how great the country/place we live in is.
- We were all actually mean’t to be in the Wairarapa this weekend as I am sitting here answering these questions. My Aunt and Uncle are from Riversdale and I think it is a hidden gem in NZ. No one from work has been there before so I was keen as to take them down to stay in the woolshed on the coast, but the weather was looking horrible so we are going to do it in a few weekends time.
I see that you guys have recently renovated a house in the Mount.
It looks bloody GREAT….I am sure you will be increasing sales in Lawson Pine as a wall cladding!
It’s certainly inspiring to see a brand freely move to undertake projects that interest you and are beyond simply adding to your “product range”…
What would be some ultimate projects you’d love to sink your teeth into in the future?
Will: I have always wanted to publish a book – I have never been good at writing so I think it will be a picture book of sorts – a coffee table kinda book I think.
Boats are also cool and love being on the water so it would be cool to do something along the lines of that. Pretty keen to sail to Fiji on a yacht at some stage.
George & Willy has naturally become quite computer and design based, so it’s always refreshing to use your hands again for a long period of time – would be cool to spend a couple years making heirloom furniture pieces – massive dining tables from beautiful timber and not just plywood haha.
George: I’ve got a bet with my brother that I will sail a yacht home from Europe by the time I am 30… not sure if it will happen, but I would be keen to do that.
I would be keen one day to build a replica of the first ever Hamilton Jet boats. I think it is just such a good NZ story and I would love to spend time on it.
I’d be keen to build a hut up a river somewhere that you had to fly/ boat all the materials into. Half the fun for me is definitely in the process and so if you can make the process include a bit of a mission that would be fun.
I have found these old forestry huts that are such a cool shape. I am keen as to restore one of them and make it a nice little cabin. My brother loves forestry, so hopefully he will get a forest I can put it in.
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